For years I taught writing classes to older adults, folks in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s. The first assignment I always gave them was this: Write the significance of your life in 100 words or less.
It was amazing to me to see what people considered worthy of their one hundred words. Most of the men described what they had done for a living. Many women used their words to talk about their children. When I invariably said, “Yes, but tell me about you!” people seemed genuinely stymied.
One man I remember especially well. His name was William, and he began his micro-biography this way: “I escaped life at the age of sixty when I retired from my job and went to work doing good. That was when I became me.”
William would have made a spectacular baby boomer! Because what we boomers are learning as we zip toward our own senior-dom is that significance isn’t about success, it’s about meaning. It’s not what pads our checkbooks, it’s what gives value to life.
Baby boomers have always been a feisty bunch. In their continued determination to give back, mature baby boomers are realizing that significance truly is found beyond themselves and their own lives.
If we live into our eighties or nineties—even if we blow out a hundred birthday candles—our days are numbered. And no one can reclaim days from the past. It’s the way we leave this earth that shows the truth of where our treasure is.
I, for one, am actively rethinking my goals. I’m setting myself the goal of reframing my values with eternal significance in mind.
My recently released book on just this topic:
The Second-Half Adventure
“Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa